Can I Sand / Paint MDF?



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Medium-density fiberboard (MDF) is a type of engineered wood that is used in all kinds of furniture products and building materials, and as such the question may arise of whether it can be sanded or painted, or both.

MDF Composition

MDF is made by mixing wood fibers with a resin or glue and then forming pieces by applying heat and pressure. These pieces can take on whatever shape the mold produces, although standard boards and paneling are most common.

The result is a strong, dense wood product that is well-suited to many applications. It is smoother than natural wood with no knots or grain patterns, which makes it ideal for veneering, but the good news is that affixing a veneer is only one option for treating MDF.

Sanding and/or Painting MDF

MDF’s smooth profile makes it ideal for painting, and you can sand, prime and paint MDF just as you would any other type of wood. Sanding MDF is not always necessary, however, particularly before painting, but it can help improve primer application. If you do decide to sand, 120-grit or 150-grit sandpaper will suffice. (NOTE: When sanding, always be sure to wear a dust mask and work in a well-ventilated area.)

Since MDF is engineered using glue and wood fiber, water-based primers can cause swelling or even raise blisters. Instead, use solvent-based primers. When it comes to priming edges, you may want to sand, prime and then sand and prime gain, as MDF edges are often absorbent and rough.


Veneers, which are ultra-thin layers of hardwood glued to the MDF surface, can also be sanded and painted if that’s your preference. The important thing is that the veneer is not chipped or otherwise heavily damaged. You can fix small problem areas with putty and then sand, but if the damage is extensive you can try to scrape the veneer off completely and work with the MDF top layer.

ATGStores.com hopes these tips help you with handling your next MDF project.

Powell uses a combination of solid wood and MDF to craft this highly rated and budget-friendly console entryway table.

Furniture of America uses MDF, hardwoods and veneers in balanced harmony to craft this beautiful - and durable - contemporary dining table.

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